by Alan Bickley
Special to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise
Iam not old enough to remember the Queen’s Coronation in 1953. But I know people who do remember it, and I have read enough about it. That coronation was attended by much hot air in the media about national renewal and the beginning of a second Elizabethan age. In fact, it occurred fourteen years into a national decline that it was becoming impossible to hide. The leading power outside the Soviet sphere of influence was the United States. The Empire was falling apart. The British State was heavily in debt, and the post-War economic recovery was running out of steam – creeping inflation, loss of competitiveness, poor industrial relations, and all the rest. Even so, Britain was easily the leading second class power. We were still the only power of note in much of the world. We were dominant in various critical industries. Our people were well-educated and industrious and broadly united and happy. We were more than reasonably free. Our future was open. If our long imperial adventure was coming to an end, it was inconceivable that we would not remain at the front in terms of scientific and technological development. Indeed, assuming a speedy end to the Cold War, and an American return to isolation, we could look forward to a stabilised position as the centre of a vast trading and military alliance, with British bases by 2000 on the Moon and Mars. The 1953 Coronation was a reminder of a glorious past and a statement of belief in a no less glorious future.
Seventy years later, we are approaching the end of the greatest self-inflicted national collapse in history. The Spanish collapse of the seventeenth century is nothing by comparison. We are an atomised and barbarised, and perhaps genetically degenerate, population, ruled by an extended police state that wants us cold and immobile and fed a diet of bugs and expensive vegetation. Our main enterprise is counting and laundering the money made by more creative peoples. Except as more of the same, we have no future. Or, if we have any hope, it involves a Caesaristic dictatorship that will break up the United Kingdom and create a new England, less free than the old – though less suicidal – and far less tangibly in contact with its ancient past.
Last Saturday’s coronation ceremony was one of those moments of clarity, where the national rot is plainly on display. It was like the moment when an old man takes off all his clothes and looks in the mirror at his ravaged body, or when a shaft of sunlight comes through a window to show the cracked plaster and crumbling woodwork in a dilapidated house. If it is no one’s fault – or the fault of no one now alive – that Charles III was too old to show well in the ceremony. The cameras could not be turned entirely away from his bloated fingers and trembling hands. Towards the end, his wife had to be carried about her business by the two bishops flanking her. But Edward VII, if younger, was in worse shape at his coronation, and everyone agreed that his ceremony went off well. The real problem was the ceremony in itself.
I read somewhere that the King would have a less lavish coronation than his mother. Instead, it was a pretty faithful imitation, and seems to have cost twice as much in real terms. Compared with the static cameras of 1953, and frequently weak colour and resolution, the filming of last Saturday’s event was a technical marvel. The cameras seemed to float about the Abbey, capturing every detail in sharp focus and perfect colour. But, as with everything else in our civilisation, technical perfection was balanced and more than balanced by everything else. Justin Welby did well that day as Archbishop of Canterbury. He oversaw the proceedings so well, and with such brisk efficiency, that it was probably more his day than the King’s. Even so, there was no doubt that Geoffrey Fisher, who crowned Elizabeth, believed both in God and in the Church of England. His Church of England was orthodox in its faith and respectable in its morals. The theology of Justin Welby’s church is political correctness and greenery. Its most committed worship is at the ara pathicae voluptatis. The traditional language of the Church was so unfamiliar to him that he read everything from a script. Even then, he fluffed his lines in several places.
Or I turn to the music. I dislike most English music of the twentieth century. But, if my musical tastes are narrow, I can appreciate that William Walton and Ralph Vaughan Williams and Herbert Howells and Arthur Bliss and Arnold Bax were composers of note. The music they provided in 1953 was both contemporary and fitting to the occasion. Last Saturday’s Coronation March owed more to John Williams than to Elgar. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Coronation Ode was as mediocre and forgettable as everything else he has not plagiarised from Mendelssohn. This was the greatest musical failure of the day, as the King had asked for something memorably tuneful that would outlive its occasion. Except it may be played endlessly on Classic FM until even the presenters are sick of it, this Coronation Ode has already sunk without trace. As for the other music played, this was played without enthusiasm. Parry’s I Was Glad lacked grandeur. The Holst and Walton were too fast. I have heard more thrilling midi files of the Handel. The Greek Orthodox choir did well. Everything else was embarrassing.
Or we have the spectators. I am no fan of Winston Churchill. But he was a man touched by greatness, who was generally considered in his day to have done his country and the world a favour. He was also a writer of some ability, and a grandson of a Duke of Marlborough. The others in the Abbey that day in 1953 were the undeniably great and good of England. Many held ancient peerages. Most of the men had fought in two world wars. They carried out their immemorial duties without self-consciousness, and even with a sense of fun. Last Saturday’s spectators were mainly heterogeneous trash. I recognised Mrs Biden and her daughter, dressed like air hostesses in the blue and gold of the Ukrainian flag. Mr Biden himself was happily absent. He would only have lowered the tone still further, with senile ramblings about his Fenian sympathies. That, or he would have soiled himself again. Boris Johnson shambled in, fat as a pig and with a creased collar. Since 2020, he has probably outclassed even Tony Blair in evil. Tony Blair, however, had the decency to look glossily evil. Boris Johnson put on his usual performance as gross buffoon. He believes that this endears him to the public, and will let him back in once the Conservatives decide that Rishi Sunak is unelectable. I doubt the public thinks at all well of him, but fear the Conservatives will bring him back in any event. As for the Prime Minister, I should compliment him for his modesty and for his competent reading of the lesson.
Then there was the procession. What happened inside the Abbey was the equivalent of a good but elderly film, digitised and colourised into a shadow of itself. But it was still a version of itself. The procession said everything that needs to be known about modern England. The few police stationed along the way in 1953 had their backs to the crowd. Mostly, the crowd kept itself from spilling into the road. The army of police present last Saturday had their backs to the procession. The crowd was already monitored by drones and helicopters and face-recognition cameras, and risked being shot at if someone pulled out a handkerchief too fast. It still had to be watched by the sweaty, unsmiling pigs of the Metropolitan Police. Behind the crowds, the few republican protestors were harassed and arrested in probable breach of some very police state public order laws.
The republican protestors were wasting their time. They probably thought they were making a stand against the ancient traditions of England. But these ancient traditions were long since overthrown. The public rituals of our Constitution have always been a fancy dress party for the ruling class. The difference between the two public rituals I am comparing is that the first was a fancy dress party for men who had some commitment to the ancestral rights of the English, and the second for those who have none. The difference puts me in mind of the Spartan Diamastigosis, where boys would offer themselves for ritual flagellation. When Sparta still existed, it was a bloody but valuable ritual, preparing those who took part and those who watched for a military career of hardship and sacrifice. But, long after Sparta had ceased to exist, the ritual continued as an entertainment for voyeuristic Romans. So it was with our Coronation. It was an entertainment laid on for a ruling class that sees England as nothing but a trading platform with a few expensive shops and the occasional outing to an echo of the local culture.
I might add the Coronation’s use as sedation for the people. So long as no one in the crowd looked up at the omnipresent surveillance drones, or thought about his own life, the idea might have been that nothing important had changed, and we stood firm in our own country with roots connecting us to High Middle Ages. But I think this deception has lost its force. Whatever lies the Establishment media may dribble, last Saturday’s crowds were smaller than in 1953. Aside from a few Potemkin events, organised and paid for by the town councils, I am not aware of any street parties or processions. At 2pm on Saturday, just as proceedings in the Abbey were reaching their ceremonial climax, I went shopping. Except for some vestigial bunting in the High Street, it was business as usual. No doubt, the other shoppers were making their own recordings, as I was, to watch later. But I saw no great pride or anticipation. As recently as the Golden Jubilee in 2002, our police state was hidden so well behind the forms of the Ancient Constitution that people like me seemed eccentric when we drew attention to it. Today, the velvet glove is so threadbare that no one fails to see the mailed fist it once concealed.
I have no idea who our Caesaristic dictator may be. But I can hope he was among the armed guards who lined Saturday’s procession – that somewhere in that sea of gormless redcoats stood one in whom beats the heart of a Pinochet.
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